A construction company in Canberra has been handed a record fine following the death of a truck driver in June 2012.
Michael Booth, a 48 year old truck driver was killed when the truck he was driving made contact with over- head, low slung, power lines on a work site belonging to Kenoss Contractors.
Under new national work safety laws, the company received a fine of $1.1 million, after being found guilty of safety breaches which resulted in Mr Booth’s death.
The company neither posted signs warning workers about the power lines nor attached flags to the lines themselves, resulting in the fatality, which could have been avoided.
The industrial magistrate Lorraine Walker said the company (now in liquidation), didn’t show any signs of remorse for the death and also allowed a poor corporate culture, including nepotism – the son of the general manager was appointed safety officer without the necessary qualifications for the job.
In addition to the disregard for safety, the company apparently attempted to hinder the investigation into the fatality and even falsely altered Mr Booth’s attendance record.
The case is significant because it is one of the first under new national work safety laws, setting a precedent for jurisdictions around the country. Ms Walker said the case was at the higher end of such a breach.
The record fine is a reminder to other companies about the importance of promoting and prioritizing safety. ACT WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe explained that companies and their directors should heed the strong warning of this case because they can be held criminally liable under the new laws. Mr McCabe stated:
“This is a very strong warning to company leaders right around the country,” he said.
“That’s a massive fine, in OHS terms it’s probably the biggest we’ve seen in the country.”
Mr McCabe explained that this incident was avoidable and in fact it was one of the most preventable serious incidents he had encountered. He went on to state:
“It is an appropriate level of penalty,” he said.
“I would have to say this is one of the most avoidable serious accidents I have ever seen.
“I went to that site on that day and I remember looking up at those powerlines and thinking, ‘why is this workplace under those powerlines?'”
Read more here.
Although the company received a record fine, it could have been higher, the maximum penalty for a safety breach by a corporation is $1.5 million.
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